In the past, I have written articles regarding the changing practices of real estate brokers in the Hamptons, especially since the large corporations have replaced many of the individually owned brokerages. The theme of this article concentrates on what has evolved over the past several years with many of the large firms, namely, Corcoran, Town & Country, Sotheby’s, and Brown Harris Stevens, who employ managers who devote full-time to managing rather than listing and selling. I met with these managers at their respective offices. The question I posed to all was, why did their corporations decide to employ full-time managers? How did it benefit the firm and the public? What were their geographical areas of responsibilities, and what did their managerial duties include? The first of the interviews I conducted was with Ernest Cervi, Regional Senior Vice President of The Corcoran Group. The next series of Land and Law articles will feature interviews with the other managers I spoke with.
Did you work as an agent before you became a manager?
EC: My partner and I started a small real estate agency on Fire Island, and we soon decided that our agents did not want to compete with the owners for listings and sales, so we decided that we would never do that. We would give the listings to them. However, we also found that our agents still wanted to work with the owners, and that was a challenge. When I sold that company, I went to work for Douglas Elliman in Southampton, and I worked for a selling manager who was also a friend, and that created a lot of challenges, because I was competing with my manager. And then I came to Corcoran, where our philosophy is, as a manager, you don’t list, you don’t sell, you don’t refer. You just manage, and help the agents grow their business which, of course, develops the firms business. And that made the agents very comfortable to come to me for guidance because they knew I wasn’t competing with them. In my view, a selling manager is an agent with an office, because, let’s suppose I am a selling manager who has a big buyer who is coming to town on the same day my newest agent is going on his first listing appointment. Where do you think that manager would be? The answer is two words, “human nature.”
So you are a salaried employee, hired expressly as a manager. Do you have other employees?
EC: All of our managers are employees, as well as our advertising people and administrative staff. Only our agents are independent contractors.
How long have you been employed as a manager for Corcoran and what is your geographical area of responsibility?
EC: In January I was promoted to Regional Manager with responsibility for all ten Corcoran offices in the Hamptons and North Fork. I have managers in the different areas who assist me in carrying out our management responsibilities.
What do your management responsibilities consist of?
EC: What we do is all encompassing. I talk with all of my agents who are out in the field. I go on listing appointments with them, which I really enjoy. I talk about the broad services provided by Corcoran and why owners should list with us. I offer opinions on pricing based on the market and what I see with respect to the property. My second greatest responsibility is recruitment.
Are the skills necessary for managing different from those for selling and listing?
EC: The skills are totally different. A good agent does not necessarily transfer to a good manager. Having said that, when I was with AT&T, I was in sales and managed a sales staff which I think helped me as a manager with Corcoran.
I assume that all of the documentation required by license law also falls under your purview.
EC: Yes. I am responsible for making sure that we have the listing agreements, agency disclosure forms, lead disclosure forms, and have provided the seller with the property condition disclosure forms, all of which I am very strict about.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a manager?
EC: My biggest challenge is to find the time to spend out in the field with my agents. It’s the most important function I have.
What do you consider to be the most important quality of a successful agent?
EC: Ethical behavior. If you can speak, walk and talk, and are a likeable person, you can be a huge success in this business. If you lack the ethics, you are nothing but a liability. I am not interested in your record of success if it wasn’t gained properly. I am interested in the proper training of new agents who have energy and the ability to develop a rapport with people, and making them the new generation of Corcoran agents.
How long does it take an agent to see return on their investment of their time?
EC: A new agent working full time, it takes about a year. An agent moving from another agency, obviously less.
How do you train new agents?
EC: I teach them how to prepare for a listing presentation, including all of the forms required by law as well as making a professional impression with how they dress and the condition of their car. We cover negotiating tactics as well as fair housing and ethics too. We follow that with a fifty lesson coaching series over a period of time. We firmly believe that training is the key to success.
A recent development has been the formation of agent teams. Discuss that please.
EC: We have many teams within Corcoran. With the demands placed on real estate agents today, we will see more and more teams as we move ahead. If I were starting out in the business today, I would want to be a member of a team.